Heirs of Sargon

Iraq has a long and tortured history. Home to the tyrant, the origins of despotism lie in the primordial ooze of the Mesopotamian swamp. Yet for a brief moment fifty years ago, the land of two rivers experienced democracy.

Issue: July-Aug 2009

From the July/August 2009 issue of The National Interest. Please click here to see the full table of contents. 


Adeed Dawisha, Iraq: A Political History from Independence to Occupation (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 408 pp., $29.95.


[amazon 0691139571 full] IRAQ HAS never been left alone. The late British travel writer and Arabist Freya Stark writes: "While Egypt lies parallel and peaceful to the routes of human traffic, Iraq is from earliest times a frontier province, right-angled and obnoxious to the predestined paths of man."1 For Mesopotamia cut across one of history's bloodiest migration routes. It was the subject of foreign invasions and the by-product of ethnic conflicts.

Whether Iraq is being attacked from the Syrian Desert in the west or the plateau of Elam in Iran to the east, this is a country constant victim to occupation. From as early as the third millennium BC, the ancient peoples of the Near East fought over control of Mesopotamia. From the Persian kings Darius and Xerxes who ruled Babylon, to the Mongol hordes that later swept down to overrun the land, to the long-running Ottoman rule that ended with the First World War, Iraq's is a tragic history.

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